"Leo has won," was the text message received by Shirish Varadkar, the Borivali-based cousin of Ireland's newly elected Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, and the family erupted in joy. There were three generations of the Varadkar family glued to Irish TV channel RTE from 9.30 pm till 11 pm, when the results were out.
The family burst crackers, distributed kaju katlis, slices of black forest cake and freshly cut mangoes to neighbours and friends who gathered to share in their joy.
On Saturday morning, 150 family members from the ancestral house in Varad in Malwan district went to the Vettal temple, the Vardkar family's kuldevta, to conduct a thanksgiving puja.
"We expected Leo to win. So that wasn't really a surprise,” said Shubhada Varadkar, Leo's niece and an Odissi exponent. Varadkar visits Ireland often for her Odissi performances.
Last year, when a few of the Varadkar family members visited Leo's family, his parents told them that his chances of becoming prime minister were very strong. "That gave us confidence he would win," Shubhada said.
The Varadkar family consists of nine siblings. The eldest Madhukar Varadkar (who is no more) and 93 year-old Manohar were freedom fighters. Madhukar was also the first mayor of Malwan district. Leo's father Ashok is the youngest of the nine siblings.
Leo Varadkar was born in Dublin, Ireland, but spent a few years in India. Though he completed his studies in medicine from Trinity College, Dublin, he chose to come to India for his internship at KEM Hospital in Mumbai. "Leo knew a smattering of Hindi when working at KEM. I don't think he can speak any word in Hindi now," Shubhada said.
A fitness enthusiast, Varadkar starts his day with a run on the park across his house in Dublin, says Shubhada. "He reads a lot and has been politically inclined since early in his life. I remember when I first visited the family in Ireland, I took along Discovery of India books with me. But I was surprised that Leo knew a lot about India and had read about it too," she says.
"He is very well read," concurred Shirish Varadkar, his cousin — Manohar's son.
Though Leo has visited India only four or five times, he remembers each of his cousins' and extended family's names. "That was a surprise to us. But that is the way Leo is. He is quite caring," said Shubhada.
Shubhada and her niece Mitali visited Ireland last year. Then Leo Varadkar was Ireland's sports minister. "Yet he found time to take us around," says Mitali. He took the cousins around Ireland, the Irish Parliament, museums, and also went out with them for dinner. "That meant a lot to us as he was very busy."
According to Leo's Wikipedia page, during an interview on RTÉ Radio on 18 January, 2015, his 36th birthday, he spoke publicly for the first time about being gay. That's also when the family in India got to know of it. "But that has not mattered to us at all," said Shubhada.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi talks of global Indians, says Shubhada, there cannot be a better example of it that their cousin who is the new Prime Minister of Ireland. "Leo has Indian roots and is the first Indian origin PM of Ireland," she said.
Though not a film buff, Leo Varadkar already gave a mahurat clap for Salman Khan's film Ek Tha Tiger in Dublin.
He loves Indian food and indulges in it when he visits the family. "Leo is very fond of chicken tandoori and gulab jamun," said Shubhada.
Updated Date: Jun 03, 2017 13:16 PM